Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An Ekphrastic poem by Charles Tarlton

James McNeill Whistler’s Red and Black: the Fan (1894)  and Kenneth Paul Block’s Drawing for the cover of James Brady’s novel, Fashion Show (2009)

All good colors are equally beautiful;  it is only in the question of their combination that art comes in.
                         -- Oscar Wilde

In the austere harmony of red and black there is at once both contradiction and beauty.  Where red is nearly all, the thinner black slithers up, punctuates the shape of red.  Oh, that long black feathered line down the middle of her red dress!  On the right, the black dress flaunts a splash of bright red flowers or ribbons in the décolletage, and catches our eye, the black dress slinky as the boa on the red.  I would make metaphors of these two, and have each contemplate the other in her gaze.

strike me a Grecian
coin between hard iron dies
a silver drachma -
heads, the goddess Athena
a wise old owl comes up tails

my lady in red
leans forward in the mirror
dreaming of a black
gossamer frock dotted red
dreaming herself into it

see the girl inside
that black dress.  What does she crave?
to hang on a wall
where the museum displays  
its admired Whistler women

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